WELLINGTON — A high-fiber diet can help curb damage to the lungs caused by smoking, New Zealand researchers said Thursday.
The University of Auckland researchers said that quitting smoking was the best action smokers could take to reduce the risk of lung cancer or emphysema, but a high-fiber diet could help reduce lung inflammation.
Lung inflammation had been shown to have a critical role in causing progressive lung damage, ultimately leading to diseases such as emphysema and lung cancer, shortening a smoker’s life by 15 to 20 years.
“This study supports the key hypothesis that the beneficial effects of a high-fiber diet come largely through increased absorption of naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory chemicals, called small chain fatty acids, produced by ‘protective’ gut bacteria’,” said study author Associate Professor Robert Young.
“These protective bacteria flourish in the gut of people consuming a high-fiber diet, but diminish in those whose diets are low in fibre and high in refined foods, where ‘harmful’ gut bacteria predominate,” Young said in a statement.
Young and his colleagues were working with researchers worldwide to identify how a diet high in fiber might reduce the damaging effects of smoking on the lungs.
“Through better engagement of smokers, screening for early lung damage and lifestyle interventions such as better diet and quitting smoking, much of the burden from smoking on the healthcare system could be reduced,” he said.